Battle of Alberta becomes a battle to avoid embarrassment

Ken Campbell
Oilers-Flames

The 2013-14 season has already unofficially been the worst ever in Alberta’s NHL history. And now the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames must gain at least 17 points combined in their final 12 games to keep it from becoming official.

With a combined 130 points after playing 76 games each, the Flames and Oilers have to post a winning percentage of .708 in order to avoid being the worst Flames-Oilers combination ever. After both losing in regulation Tuesday night – the Flames fell 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Oilers lost 5-4 on the road to the San Jose Sharks-  they’re currently playing at a combined .428 clip.

Until this season, the worst seasons ever for the Oilers and Flames combined were 1995-96 and 1996-97, when they combined for 147 points. In ’95-96, the Flames had 79 points and the Oilers 68; in ’97-98 the Oilers had 80 and the Flames 67. (Last year’s lockout shortened season wasn’t much better with the Flames and Oilers combining for a pro-rated 149 points.)

So even if the Flames and Oilers both run the table in each of their final six games, they’ll finish the season with a combined 154 points, which would make it their fifth-worst season combined after 1995-96, ’97-98, 2009-10 when they combined for 152 points, and last season.

It’s important to note, however, that the ’95-96 and ’97-98 teams didn’t have the benefit of shootouts to pad their point totals. In both those seasons, the teams combined for five overtime losses, which, under today’s standards, would have put their point totals at 153 and 152 for those two seasons. In 1995-96, the Flames and Oilers played in 19 games that were tied after regulation time and 5-on-5 overtime, meaning they would have only had to combine for three shootout wins in 19 games to eclipse the best they can possibly do this season. And in 1997-98, 25 combined games were tied after overtime, with the teams having to combine for only two shootout wins in those games to get more than the 154 at which the Flames and Oilers can possibly max out this season.

(In each of those seasons, the Oilers and Flames tied each other once, which automatically would give them at least one more combined point, since one of them would have had to win those shootouts.)

So the real low-water mark is the 149 pro-rated points from last season, meaning the Oilers and Flames will have to combine for 19 of a possible 24 points just to tie that mark.

All of which means both the Oilers and Flames, once bitter rivals in the Battle of Alberta, should be cheering for each other to win as many games as they can in April. Because only a miracle will keep them from being the most historically bad teams the province has ever had.

In their final six games, the Oilers play on the road at Phoenix, then end the season with home games against Anaheim, Colorado, Los Angeles and Vancouver. The Flames are on the road against Tampa Bay, Florida and New Jersey before finishing the season with a three-game home stand against Los Angeles, Winnipeg and Vancouver.